Review Summary: Extremely solid, well balanced, intense, technical, cohesive...I could go on...
I absolutely love to cook. Sometimes, when I have nothing better to do, I go through all of my grandmother's old cookbooks, as well as some of the ones my mother has bought recently, and just thumb through them until something catches my eye. However, since most of the cookbooks we have laying around are very limited in their culinary styles (they're all old fashioned cookbooks from the good ol' American south, so most of the recipes call for deep frying the ingredients), I often find myself turning to the Food Network for new ideas. Every chef on the Food Network has their own unique style of cooking, and their own unique ideas about how things should be done, but there are a handful of chefs that are featured by the Food Network that I really just can't stand for a variety of reasons, and directly in the center of this group of chefs, is a woman named Rachael Ray. The reason she irks me is really quite simple; she takes perfectly fine dishes, like mashed potatoes, and throws in unnecessary things like cream cheese to make them fresh and exciting, which in the end just ends up over complicating the dish and ultimately ruining it (starting to see where I'm going with this?).
The chefs I have the most respect for are the ones that can create classic dishes, and make them completely their own by adding subtle nuances rather than off the wall ingredients. In much the same way, the bands that I have the most respect for are the ones that can take a particular sound and create something fresh and exciting out of it without throwing in a slew of superfluous ideas. El Chupa Cobras is one of those bands. El Chupa Cobras takes the ideas developed by bands like Hot Cross, Saetia, Orchid, and pretty much every other emotional hardcore band that certain individuals like to name drop on the internet to make them feel like a member of the musical elite, and adds just a dash of their own flavor into the mix, which creates an album that is both eerily familiar (in a comforting sort of way) and fresh. Every song on the album is, at its core, a fairly short and intense burst of dissonance and chaos, but there is an underlying structure and cohesiveness that brings all the chaos together. However, the structural aspects are hidden fairly well. Though every song seems like a barrage of constantly shifting ideas, nearly every song contains either a guitar riff or vocal pattern that gets brought back up intermittently throughout it with subtle variations, which gives the songs a loose feeling of structure that makes each song, and thus the album, flow quite a bit better than it seems it should.
Another noteworthy accomplishment of the album is the sense of balance it displays, not only in the songwriting and instrumental aspects, but in the production as well. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the album is how the band manages to vary its music without the inclusion of any noticeable "slow sections". The main way this is accomplished is by adding in sections that appear equal in intensity, but in reality the music is more open than the bulk of the albums clustered and frantic dissonance. Basically, the tempos remain the same, but the music is made a bit more thin by doing things like simplifying the drum parts and cutting out one of the guitars. As previously mentioned, the production is also extremely well balanced. The production values are fairly raw, but nothing ever seems to get lost or muddied up during the albums frequent violent passages. Even when every instrument is blasting through the speakers at full volume, it's very rare that you'll find anything getting drowned out by something else. Even the vocals manage to be almost overly raw, yet fairly comprehensible at the time. Think Jacob Bannon's vocals on Converge's Jane Doe, but not quite as distorted or screechy.
I'm sure most of you have been wondering this whole time when the issue of technicality in the music would come up, and there's a good reason why it hasn't been mentioned yet. To be quite honest, it took me a good two or three listens through before I realized that anything even moderately technical was going on, and believe me, it isn't because any of the musicians are lacking in technical ability. The guitar parts shift violently from rapid fire dissonant chords and progressions, to speedy atonal runs and "lead" parts reminiscent of newer Hot Cross, the bass is constantly grooving along in the background with an ample amount of gritty distortion, and the drumming is intense to say the least. The fact of the matter is, all of the songs are put together so well that the technicality presented is overwhelmed by the compositional aspects of the music, which usually happens the other way around.
The album's only true downfall lies in the length. Clocking in at just under a half hour, it almost feels like you're getting short changed, since the album could easily be a good ten to fifteen minutes longer without losing any steam or becoming uninteresting. However, brevity aside, the album is one of the better ones of its kind put out last year, so I would strongly urge you to check it out. If El Chupa Cobras keeps progressing over their next couple of albums, they might just become one of the heavy hitters in the hardcore/punk genre.